Monday, February 25, 2013

Cultural Curves and Parasites

I just realized it's been nearly two weeks since I wrote anything on here. There are two main reasons for this:
1) I've been here over three months now and after referencing a few nifty little culture shock curves, I think I'm experiencing something of a low point. My "honeymoon" with Ecuador is over and I'm in the process of accepting this while maybe being a bit confused and tired of the culture. I don't think I'm hostile toward it, but I've definitely been frustrated with it lately. I think, however, that I'm mostly frustrated with my job and my lack of improvement in Spanish. Still, I have been looking at ESL jobs in Russia and Eastern Europe occasionally--pining for a culture I seem to understand better. 

Latin American, or at least Ecuadorian culture, is basically the exact opposite of Russian culture. It's incredibly expressive, openly emotional, loud, confusing, and the flakiest of flaky. In Russia, people are inexpressive and seem stand-offish or unfriendly at first. Even the language reflects this: you don't call someone your "friend" until you know them super well, until you are practically family. Until then, they are acquaintances. But I learned to love this because it's so real. Another example is that when people ask "how are you?" they mean it. It's not a greeting or a formality. If you ask a Russian how they are, they'll tell you the truth. Again, very real and honest; direct. 
Here, people make a huge deal about being your friend and display a bunch of emotion--but they call everyone "friend" and kiss them and go on and on about people they don't know. It's less genuine than in the States, even. 
Anyway, that's the first reason I've been silent. It's been hard to write anything and I've been a little homesick for family and friends and snow. 
2) After about a month of stomach problems and irregular bowel movements (I'm trying to be polite here) I tried a few things to see what was wrong with me. I fasted and tried a salt water flush and the result left me pretty certain that I had parasites--I had a fever because the little buggers were so mad that I wasn't feeding them.
So, I tried to change my diet and started taking an herbal supplement I found at the hostel, but that quickly left me frustrated (no coffee for a month? Never!), so I switched to some over the counter anti-parasite medication that I'd heard of from friends. 
This whole process has been interesting while working full time. Sharing two toilets with 30 people is not recommended when you have parasites (diarrhea). But I think they are gone. I saw some suspicious-looking, translucent little suckers in my poop a few days ago and have started feeling a bit better, although things are still not quite back to normal. 
Yesterday I felt better and started drinking a beer without thinking (not supposed to drink for awhile after taking the meds); I got sick and threw up while making borsch for the hostel. 
Anyway, I don't think I'm a hypochondriac, but I spent way too much time looking up pictures of worms on the internet and getting worked up about what might be in my stomach. This whole thing has been super stressful and time-consuming, but also pretty interesting. I had no idea all of the parasites people can get and I was actually pretty excited to see that I had passed some, since that meant they were leaving my body. 
For those of you who want to know more details about having worms, basically my stomach has been unsettled, constantly rumbling, and my poop has been of the liquid variety. This wouldn't be a big deal, but when it lasts for about a month or so and you're living in a place where you can get parasites from the tap water, from veggies or fruit that isn't washed carefully, etc, then you've probably got some little guys chilling in your tummy. They just get worse, breeding and hanging out in your intestines, sucking up your nutrients, and eventually really messing things up. 
Anyway, I've mostly turned the whole experience into a joke now, but it was still pretty rough and only added to whatever cultural things I'm experiencing right now. 

...and that's why I've been silent. But I'll write more frequently as I feel better and have more time. 

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